Friday. 16/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

All due respect

After the victory against England in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, some Italians gloated on social media about much more than the events on the football pitch. The general theme? “Look at these English hooligans, racially abusing their own players, booing the Italian national anthem and drunkenly forcing their way into the stadium. Post-Brexit England will not be missed by Europe.” Yet the debate now raging over Italy’s own anti-homophobia and transphobia legislation should prompt them to take a long hard look at equality and respect at home.

A bill specifically targeting homophobia, rather than just hate speech, has been in the works for 25 years; previous versions have repeatedly failed to make it through parliament. The latest attempt has now been approved by Italy’s lower house of parliament but it was hotly debated this week in the Italian senate, where right-wing parties have greater influence and are demanding a series of amendments to what they deem its most “controversial” aspects. These include recognition of “gender identity” and the introduction of awareness initiatives in schools. Far-right politicians such as Simone Pillon, from Matteo Salvini’s Lega party, are throwing scaremongering into the debate, citing children’s rights to lob all manner of groundless accusations at same-sex couples. The Vatican, which fears the law’s effect on freedom of thought, broke a long-established non-interference pact last month to call for “changes” to the bill, effectively opposing the law.

In their rhetoric, Pillon and other senators are putting on a show of the most abysmally reactionary feelings that this majority-Catholic country still harbours. Some centre-left politicians suggest that they will accept a handful of modifications to finally get the bill through parliament – amendments to the bill can be proposed until Tuesday. But compromises at this point would only weaken the sentiment: it will take a confident and strong piece of legislation to truly change the nation and its international reputation. Missing the opportunity would be an own goal for Italy.

Image: Alamy

Defence / Afghanistan

Crisis of confidence

The Afghan government and the Taliban reportedly intend to hold a new round of peace talks today in Doha. It comes as the Taliban has made major inroads into Afghan territory in recent weeks and is estimated to control about one third of the country. Afghanistan’s military has struggled to hold remote outposts as the US and Nato plot their departures. However, not everyone is pessimistic. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who will apparently join today’s Doha talks, has urged younger people to “trust in your country – peace will come”. Paul Rogers, international security adviser at Open Democracy, says that the government’s inability to strengthen domestic security forces and establish a long-term peacekeeping operation led by the UN has left many Afghans questioning their future. “The real tragedy is that many of them will feel that it’s necessary to leave,” he tells Monocle 24’s The Briefing. Kabul’s government has a window to convince its people to stay – but this is in danger of closing quickly.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Poland & EU

Polish off?

Could Poland crash out of the EU? A decision by the country’s top court this week has suddenly made “Polexit” a very real possibility. Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal has declared the European Court of Justice’s rulings on the country’s controversial judicial reforms to be unconstitutional, marking a direct rebuke to the authority of the EU’s highest court.

The reforms, which include the creation of a body with the power to prosecute and suspend judges, are the brainchild of Poland’s governing right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), which has antagonised Brussels for years. The opposition Civic Platform party, led by former European Council president Donald Tusk (pictured, on right), has accused them of trying to engineer the country’s EU expulsion. Warsaw-based journalist Magdalena Chodownik says that Brussels should weigh its response carefully. “Poland is a very pro-European country,” she tells The Monocle Minute. “But if the tensions and disagreements affect funding, those feelings might change. If it’s a game the PiS is playing, it’s a worrying one.”

For more on the brewing Warsaw-Brussels battle listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Jonathan VDK

Transport / Japan

Making tracks

Shinjuku Station (pictured) in Tokyo is the world’s busiest rail hub, with 12 train lines and a seething mass of passengers averaging 3.5 million a day in normal times. But it also has a number of ageing buildings, a confoundingly complicated layout and a lack of easy access for pedestrians who want to cross the station without going through the ticket gates. This week, however, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government announced that it is going to overhaul the station, building new public plazas to the east and west, and a broad walkway over the tracks that will allow people to cross from one side to the other without going inside. Reorganising the station while keeping the transport network fully functioning is a major undertaking and the work isn’t scheduled to finish until 2047. In starting the planning early, Japan is showing the forward thinking that is required for such huge infrastructure projects.

Image: Shutterstock

Design / UK

New masters

New York-based Selldorf Architects won its bid to renovate the British National Gallery (pictured) this week, beating a daunting cast of competitors including David Chipperfield Architects and Asif Khan. The overhaul will establish a fresh foyer for the Sainsbury Wing, a new research facility and improvements to the museum’s outdoor space on Trafalgar Square. The project is intended to help the gallery “fight out of the crisis” after a period of dwindling footfall, according to director Gabriele Finaldi, and costs are expected to run as high as £30m (€35m). Selldorf is certainly up to the task: its ongoing work on Manhattan’s Frick Collection has sought to modernise a cultural institution without undermining its heritage, while also juggling the varied demands of designing for outdoor, indoor and educational spaces. In the UK, the first renovation phase is slated for completion by 2024, when the National Gallery turns 200. It’s hard to imagine a better birthday present than that.

Image: Stefano Scatà

M24 / Food Neighbourhoods

Recipe edition, Jessica Rosval

A recipe for a sumptuous weekend brunch dish from the head chef of Casa Maria Luigia, Massimo Bottura’s elegant country hotel in Modena.

Monocle Films / Global

Resort rules

Holidays should be the time of year when everything is allowed but we do have some gentle recommendations for both hoteliers and holidaymakers to take note of.

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